Thursday, 29 August 2013

New Tracks: Hybrid Nightmares- Thrown to the Wolves


Exceptional Australian Black Metallers Hybrid Nightmares have released a new track that goes by the some what stereotypical name of "Thrown to the Wolves." If it sounds old school, that's because it is, but that doesn't mean that there's any form of pastiche or staleness about what this band do. "Thrown to the Wolves" is 7 minutes of primal, raw and epic Black Metal that traverses through pummelling, slow moving areas into soaring, duelling guitar riffing into rollicking grooves and licks, as well as the occasional disco breakdown. It's an exceptional track that will recall the finest works of the likes of Satyricon and Darkthrone.

You can download "Thrown to the Wolves" for free via the band's bandcamp, linked below.
http://hybridnightmares.bandcamp.com/track/thrown-to-the-wolves

New Songs: Torche- Keep Up & Leather Feather


On 2nd July of this year, Floridian "Sludge- Poppers" Torche released two brand new singles. These are the first releases from the band since their stellar album "Harmonicraft" last year, which featured pretty highly in my end of year albums list.

The first single is "Keep Up." Carrying on their most recent effort's trend of combining enormous pop melodies with thick, crushing heaviness, the main riff is both sugary and summery, but the track still very much has that added beef thanks to the thick production on the bass. Overall, the track wouldn't sound out of place on Dinosaur Jr. album and is pretty catchy, but I don't think it's quite as immediate as a lot of what was on "Harmonicraft."

Steam "Keep Up" via this link: https://soundcloud.com/volcoment/torche-keep-up

The second single goes by the name of "Leather Feather", and is much more in tune with the older, heavier sonic ground Torche used to occupy. It's got an absolutely stonking, dirty and fuzzy swagger and riff on it. There aren't many progressions in the song save for the quickly- plucked harmonised arpeggios in the bridge section, but the song builds into a thunderous, fast paced climax that is certainly both monstrously heavy and exciting.

There has no been no word of a new record release as of yet for the band.

Stream "Leather Feather" via this link: https://soundcloud.com/volcoment/torche-leather-feather

Uncommon Nasa- Land of the Way it Is

Artist: Uncommon Nasa
Album: Land of the Way it Is
Record Label: Uncommon Records

Realistic, personal and energetic, "Land of the Way it Is" is a rip- roaring journey through lyrical righteousness

Uncommon Nasa is an example of a man who understands both the music industry and the outside World in equal, level- headed measure. As head honcho of New York's Uncommon Records, he's created an environment where music is made out of sheer joy and genuine passion rather than any real desire to make money. Label mates like Atari Blitzkrieg and Masei Bay provide plenty of talent, but the overall incentive of the "Prog rap" collective is one of family.

"Land of the Way it Is" is an example of a record that is evidently politically, socially and personally righteous, but Uncommon Nasa has no desire to shove his ideals down your throat. This is a record that sees him primarily clarifying his own mind, and if others can get in touch with the verdicts exposed then that's a bonus.

"The War on Bicycles" entails plenty of Nasa's esoteric lyrical ability as he divulges via metaphysical prose into the animosity that exists between humans and how belligerent it is. "Pasta W/ Butter" sees him indulge in a brand of deeply personal story telling about a childhood spent growing up in poverty. "Most cats have never known times like these, counting degrees on the thermostat" he raps over a chopped and screwed Boom- Bap beat. "Background Check" sees him marrying the story of a troubled childhood in an environment which he didn't fit with an attack on worldly ignorance. "What else do you expect when slavery is sugar- coated in school text books, and teaching Black history is considered nuts?" he says, before affirming "I am not the whites you see on TV, you are not the Blacks we see on TV."


"Frequent Flyers" finds him tired and fed up with the role of a touring, entirely self- sufficient lifestyle as he raps "Lights flashing flight delayed, but I feel like it's my life that's been delayed." "My Ego's Big" is one of the most potently lyrical moments here, Nasa providing a deep substance in his wordy analysis of the cynicism of the music industry.

But there's also Brother Ali- esque optimism on offer here, like on "Roses and Stones", which is largely about living life to the full and taking it for what it is. "The Future" follows the same kind of trajectory with much more of a poetic nature and provides an excellent close to the record.


"Land of the Way it Is" isn't about publicity. In his song of last year "Letter to my Countrymen" Brother Ali rapped "I'll be happy if this only reaches one of them" after an onslaught of critique of American culture and the government. In a way, that's what this record is. Unfortunately it's likely to be slept on by the majority, but for those who discover it it's almost endlessly brilliant.

Key tracks: Background Check, Pasta W/ Butter, The Future
For fans of: Billy Woods, Brother Ali

8/10

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Earl Sweatshirt- Doris

Artist: Earl Sweatshirt
Album: Doris
Record Label: Tan Cressida

Earl returns more mature, developed and lyrically brilliant, proving capabilities beyond that of the Odd Future boundaries

One of the most interesting aspects of the Odd Future collective (once the most hyped new Indie proposal in Hip Hop) is that their ranks seem to be dissipating and their status as a "rap clique" diminishing. Save for the disappointing Odd Future 2 tape last year, most of the members now seem primarily concerned with developing their careers as singular artists. A smart move; collectives have a way of pinning down both effort and ability (perhaps something that bit down hard on OF's heels due to the criticism of "2"). Probably spurred on by both the critical acclaim of Tyler and reasonably well observed solo projects by the likes of Domo Genesis, Earl Sweatshirt has wasted no time in proving himself worthy, and mostly without the hefty cast of a clique incentive.

"Doris" is far removed from the Horror- Core of his debut release "Earl." Now at 19 years of age, we see a more mature, personal and complex Earl, which may have been expected, but fairly often he showcases lyrical wisdom and intellectual wordplay beyond his years. He immediately starts endorsing in a kind of brutal honesty and self- deprecation on "Burgundy" as he raps "I'm stressin' over payment so don't tell me that I've made it" over a dramatic production of crisp drums and crushing orchestration. "Chum" made plenty of waves as a single prior to the album's release, but his sorry profession of a broken life after his father left hits home hard as lines like "get up off the pavement and brush the dirt up off my psyche" resound.


In a similar vein fellow pre- release "Hive" is here in all its creeping, cavernous potency, and displays some of that esoteric wisdom Earl carries out with such profound calm; "Desolate testaments trying to stay Jekyll-ish but most niggas is Hyde and Brenda just stay pregnant."

"Sunday" is the most painfully honest moment here however, featuring punishingly personal quips like "If I hurt you I'm sorry, music makes me dismissive." It sees him in touch with shame, and almost trying to justify himself out of embarrassment. Production wise "Hoarse" is one of the finest moments here. It has a distinctly dark, ghostly swagger that sounds like it was produced straight from a mental asylum. The line "Pro- abortion endorsing his own importance and leaving opponents floating with paper and dirty porcelain" sees him tap into sociological, worldly speculation.


It's not all as artistically developed as it can be. "20 Wave Caps" sees Earl rapping without much substance, and the Mac Miller- featuring "Guild" lacks spectacularly in energy. Mostly though "Doris" is a surprising, clever and well- formed triumph that leaves plenty of ground for Earl to cover, but delivers plenty of emotion and substance. His prowess is only likely to grow.

Key tracks: Hive, Chum, Hoarse
For fans of: Vince Staples, Tyler, the Creator

7/10

Read what I thought about the track "Hive" here http://therivieraworld.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/new-tracks-earl-sweatshirt-hive.html

New Tracks: Satyricon- Our World, it Rumbles Tonight


Legendary Norwegian Black Metallers Satyricon return with the barn storming "Our World, it Rumbles Tonight." The song is an epic, rollicking gallop through a swaggering and catchy riff and groove, fast paced but also moderated leaving plenty of head- banging potential. During the chorus the song becomes a mesh of machine- gun- esque kick drums, dramatic, symphonic and heavy synth chords, as well as epic guitar arpeggios, giving the track a slightly spiritual momentum. The lyrics also provide a kind of presence that resembles the epicness of a Tolkein classic.

Satyricon's new self- titled album is due to be released on September 9th via Kaleidoscope records.


New Tracks: Cage- the Hunt


Cage returns with the first track to drop from his upcoming new full- length "Kill The Architect" (which he's apparently been working on for the past three years) called "The Hunt", and it's a fantastic way to mark his return. The track has quite an old- school Mobb Deep vibe about it. It has a typically layered and textured beat full of strange, eerie instrumentation. However, the beat also leaves lots of room for his unhinged imagination to run wild in. Cage really reminds the listener of just what a complex and unnerving character he is on this track. Lyrical matter ranges from "Hostel"- esque torture scenes to the debate between Science and Religion, but it also contains lots of uncomfortable, horrific imagery, such as "I found out what haunted is, it turned out to be the ghosts of my aborted kids" and the closing lyric "I hope that when I'm dead my memorabilia will keep on touching kids like pedophilia."

As far as I'm concerned, this is Cage at his most vivid and therefore at his finest. Expectations are certainly high for "Kill the Architect" off the back of this track.

"Kill The Architect" is due to be released October 22nd via Eastern Conference Records. You can stream "The Hunt" below, and grab a free download in exchange for an email address from Cage's bandcamp, also linked below.


http://cagewm.com/

Julianna Barwick- Nepenthe

Artist: Julianna Barwick
Album: Nepenthe
Record Label: Dead Oceans

Enchanting and rich in secrecy and choral elegance, "Nepenthe" is a glimpse of a far- away paradise

If artists could win awards for the ability to create pictures and atmospheres without the use of poetry or prose, Julianna Barwick would certainly be a venerable contender for the title of maverick, running alongside the likes of Mogwai. You need look no further than "Nepenthe" for evidence of that. Barwick's second full- length album, it's both a twinkling, spiritual glimpse of a far away paradise that humans can only hope to one day reach, as well as an account of Barwick's journey and time spent there. It's both a story and a presentation told with few words, favouring swelling but stripped back instrumentation and filling, soaring harmonic vocal constructions.

"Offing" is the record at it's most fragile, although it presents siren- like, layered choruses rising from the crackle, ever- progressing but deliberately leaving the beauty to be fulfilled by the next track "The Harbinger." It's an astonishingly beautiful track, combining heavy handed piano chords and eventually heartbreaking crescendos as it becomes evermore empowering and atmospheric.


"Pyrrhic" sees the instrumentation expanded ever- further to entail weeping violins and incredible symphonic hums. Similarly, "Look Into Your own Mind" finds the rising but steady instrumentation an ideal backdrop for the atmosphere drenched vocals anyway.

The evident enchantment of the world Barwick is seemingly trying to depict on "Nepenthe" is sometimes even out of her reach. Nevertheless, her narrative is utterly engulfing, occasionally breathtaking, and a sonic journey you'll find hard not to lose yourself in.

Key Tracks: The Harbinger, Look Into Your own Mind
For fans of: Grouper, Sigur Ros

8/10

Friday, 23 August 2013

New Tracks: Le1f- Damn Son


New York rapper Le1F has released the first track to his upcoming mixtape "Tree House", which is due to be released next month. Le1f became surrounded by heavy doses of praise and generally favourable blogosphere hype when he dropped his debut mixtape "Fly Zone" earlier this year.

His new track is titled "Damn Son", and lyrically finds him sounding as proud, comfortable and cocky as ever. His flow and lyrics evoke a kind of cocksure ease that is means all attention is fundamentally on him when he raps, even if his flow is quite understated. The instrumental, produced by Shy Guy, is a fluttering, glacial but also calm and summery fest of colourful synth arpeggios and progressions. I do like the overall feel of this track and Le1f is certainly an MC who can hold my attention, but the hook is generally pretty irritating.

"Tree House" is due to be released on September 10th. You can stream and download "Damn Son" for free via the Soundcloud link below.

https://soundcloud.com/le1f/damn-son


New Tracks: Demdike Stare Secret Thirteen Mix


Lancastrian purveyors of all things dark and otherworldly Demdike Stare have put together a fantastic new mix for the brilliant Secret Thirteen website. It's a mix that sees the duo weave music of an extremely wide span of genres together seamlessly and effortlessly, in a way that is beautiful but is sure to send all kinds of shivers down your spine. There's ghostly ambient drone, fractious, haunting electronica, laid- back and smooth house and Jazz here to boot, as well as much more. The art of the mixtape is something (as we've learnt in the past) that Demdike Stare feel should take time and meticulous consideration. As is the case with their Secret Thirteen Mix, is often these editions that are the most worthwhile.

You can download the mix from the Secret Thirteen website linked below. There's also a track list on there. Have a look at the rest of the site for other great mixes whilst you're at it.

http://secretthirteen.org/secret-thirteen-mix-083-demdike-stare/

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Franz Ferdinand- Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action

Artist: Franz Ferdinand
Album: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
Record Label: Domino

"Right Thoughts..." sees the Glaswegian band recapture their style in magnificent fashion, says Will Rogers

Franz Ferdinand haven’t released a record since 2009, and to many it feels even longer as the previous record left many fans feeling underwhelmed. Though “Tonight” still had some undoubted highlights, it was generally an album that people believed saw the band lose their sound. Accusations levelled ranged from the sound being 'superficial' to 'too much like their other stuff'. So perhaps it would be fair to ask how the band puts these worries to bed.

“Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action” is the perfect reminder of what Franz Ferdinand stand for. Always a bit different from their competition dated back in 2004 after their debut album, “Franz Ferdinand”, the band has recaptured that ability to dominate indie disco playlists.

Opening with “Right Action”, with its serrated riffs, new wave synth licks and a snap of snare, there couldn't be a better way for Franz Ferdinand to announce their return. Not only is it a suitable album opener, it is a track capable of opening what could be a number of worldwide festival appearances. Though the album's second track “Evil Eye” offers something different from the norm, and is therefore unlikely to prove as popular on the bands live performances, it perfectly shows how the band are able to let their hair down with a shorter, snappier sound.



“Love Illumination” sees the band return to their more traditional sound and is as equally strong as the opener. Though more of a typical Indie hit, that signature disco sound is maintained.

While it is fair to say that “Treason! Animals” is a particular low point, dipping in and out from being either catchy to just an annoying ringing sound, 'Bullet’ is yet another highlight as well as one to look out for in the chart listings as it is certainly set to be a future single. The track sucks you in with a signature intro and is likely to see the band continue their affiliation with football fans as it is sure to feature on the upcoming Fifa '14.



While taking a lengthy break before releasing material can often risk alienating and therefore losing fans, “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action” is the perfect treat for those that stayed interested, as well as a potential new audience that are sure to be impressed.

Key Tracks: Right Action, Bullet, Evil Eye, Love Illumination
For fans of: Gang of Four, Bloc Party

9/10

By Will J. Rogers

New Tracks: Death Grips- Birds


OOF! San Francisco game- changing noisenik Hip- Hop trio Death Grips have returned with an absolutely nightmarish bulldozer of a track by the way of "Birds." Well, what else did you expect?

As some of you who have followed this blog for a while now/ know me personally will know, I'm a HUGE Death Grips fan. In fact they are probably my favourite act to emerge from the last two years or so. You may also remember that their debut album proper "The Money Store" got the No. 1 spot on my end of year albums list in 2012. However, I never got round to reviewing the second record they put out that year, "No Love Deep Web", even though I listened to it a handful of times and generally enjoyed it.

The word on the blogosphere is that the band aren't due to release another full- length until 2014, but out of the blue comes the pile- driving "Birds", which might just be the weirdest thing they've done to date. As expected, there's a hideous amount going on in this song, but all of it works in conjunction in that seamless Death grips way. It starts off with the group's trademark deliberately OTT, screeching droney synths (which are repeated in the hook) and a somewhat punky rhythm endorsed in by Zach Hill.

The verses are comprised of a ghostly, resounding guitar sample, reflecting a newly organic trajectory for the band. MC Ride's vocals are chopped up and drenched in weird, robotic reverb. And he sounds as evil, sadistic and narcissistic as ever in the second verse when he raps "I got power, it's so cheap, fuck this bird, Bitch, drink this bleach."

What's so fantastic about "Birds" is it proves that Death grips aren't about to run out of ideas anytime soon. The incredible thing about them is their ability to consistently find new ways to develop and expand their sound into otherworldly pastures where people have only stood, afraid, on the fringes before.

As with most Death Grips material it's free to download, so both stream it and download (if you so wish) via the Soundcloud link below:
https://soundcloud.com/deathgrips/birds


New Tracks: Active Child- She Cut Me


LA based harpist/ producer/ neo- r'n'b wunderkind Pat Grossi, aka Active Child, has unveiled an absolutely gorgeous new track in the shape of "She Cut Me." The track spans just 2 minutes 15 seconds, and is entirely instrumental, save for a few creamy and often harmonious falsetto "ahhs" from Grossi. What the track lacks in vocals it makes up for in sonic effects. It's absolutely riddled with atmosphere, from the cavernous drums to the hefty, rumbling synth hum that forms the backdrop and the glacial plucked Harp notes. It's one of those songs that sounds like it was recorded in an enchanted glade deep within a dense woodland that only Grossi knows about, and he revels in its secrecy.

Stream the track and watch the video via the last.fm link below:
http://www.last.fm/music/Active+Child/_/She+Cut+Me

New Tracks: Of Montreal- She Ain't Speakin' Now


Kevin Barnes' Indie pop nutters Of Montreal return with a new track entitled "She Ain't Speakin' Now." Stylistically it sees the band traverse down a slightly more conventional route, that being catchy but (of course) psychedelic Pop- Rock. The upbeat nature of the song is matched by Barnes' typically sinister, dark and metaphorical lyrics, which in this case seem to be about a woman who has had a mental breakdown and has never really recovered.


New Tracks: Carcass- The Master Butcher's Apron


Legendary Liverpudlian Death Metallers Carcass, responsible for one of the most imperative DM albums of all time (their 1993 album "Heartwork"), are gearing up for their comeback album by dropping a new track called "The Master Butcher's Apron." Oftentimes considered to be one of (if not THE) pioneering band in the genre of Melodic Death metal, the new track definitely places emphasis on the "melodic."

First of all, the track is immaculately produced. It sounds smooth and Jeffrey Walker's vocals are generally discernible. The track opens up on a mechanical bloodbath of machine gun drumming and furious finger picking, before descending into a deliriously catchy but down- tuned groove and then embarking on a voyage through more soaring, clean cut riffing. Lyrically the track is pretty "meat and potatoes" Death Metal, demonstrated by the opening line "The sun never sets, the blood never dries, the foolish sacrifice of the master butcher."

It's not an exceptionally interesting or unique track, but it's catchy, fiery and certainly has me looking forward to "Surgical Steel."

The band's upcoming album "Surgical Steel" is due for release on the 16th September via Nuclear Blast. Stream "The Master Butcher's Apron" via the link below.

http://www.thegauntlet.com/music/183/Carcass-The-Master-Butcher-s-Apron


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Soul Never Sleeps: "Thorns Thoughts" by Gavin Topley

 

Borne from Nottingham, based in Bournemouth, writer Gavin Topley has graciously allowed The Riviera to share his uniquely harrowing short story "Thorn's Thoughts"

I’m not gay; I mean I don’t think I am.  Needs must though, and at the end of the day it means I can work as much or as little as I feel like. Like tonight I’m feeling pretty shitty so I’m just going to stick around to earn enough for a smoke, a bag of chips and to pay the hostel for the week.  If I can get business where they want to suck me off and I can make them blow before I do, sweet deal I can move straight onto the next punter without having to break.  Ideal.  Early night.  Fuck sticking around in the pissing down rain. Fucking Manchester weather; what a pile of shite.

 I found out about this when I was like thirteen.  I was living in a kid’s home because to be honest no-one gave a fuck about me.  My Mum was only bothered about where her next bag was coming from and my Dad, well fuck knows, but anyway I’m chatting off topic.  So I’m living in this kid’s home and was waiting about outside for Frankie to show up.  Next thing I get a text to say she’s pissed her Mum off so she aren’t allowed out.  I finish my fag, throw it down and am about to get on my way.   So some bloke, must have been like 40 or something, walks over chatting on about it being bad for you to smoke, and how I look like I’ve ‘lost a pound and found a penny’.  Somehow we get onto chatting about Frankie and where I live and how the staff have withheld my pocket money this week because I’d snook Frankie in and we’d got caught by the shift leader fucking on the sofa.  So the bloke is like “oh you’re a horny little fucker then”, and I tell him I suppose so.  He asks me if I want to earn double my pocket money and fuck the staff.  So I’m like yeah fuck the system bring it on sort of thing.  He says he’ll spot me a score if he can suck my cock.  I haven’t looked back since to be honest.  I mean one thing I do know is that that bloke and punters like him are fucking pervs, I was a fucking kid.  At the end of the day though I can handle myself, and even though there are the creepy fuckers, like most of ‘em are alright. 

Don’t get me wrong like I don’t chat to them like I’m chatting to you now.  I make sure I come across street, so they don’t think they can fuck with me. It’s how it has to be.   Anyway they fucking love chav lads so it works well for business, and keeps me safe.

Like there are those regulars you get to know and it’s kind of they get to care about you, and I like that to be honest.  It’s good to be cared about, ya know?  Like there’s this rich guy and he’ll pick me up every now and then.  We’ll head to his house and he’ll be like “look buddy, we’re just gonna have a little bit of a party, get fucked up, and you’ll leave with a ton in your sky rocket”.  He has bare drink in his house so whatever you ask for he’ll disappear to the kitchen and get it. Then he’ll be like “right matey what chems are we after?”  Whatever I ask for he makes a call, soon enough there’s a knock at the door and it arrives.  Like I think he cares about me in his own way and it’s nice that someone does.

The only other time, apart from Frankie and to be honest fuck Frankie, but yeah the only other time I’ve felt cared about was in the Atkinson Unit when I was locked up for keep lifting crates from the local Tesco.  The staff there proper gave a shit, and they even helped me get some GCSE’s while I was locked up. Me; fucking GCSE’s, jokes!

Anyway, punters; so there’s this other bloke who picks me up and wants me to beat the fuck out of him and spit on him and shit.  Easy money you’d think but I always come away from it feeling like I’m the one who’s just been battered. I’m a bit of a soft lad really.

So anyway Frankie’s parents have always fucking hated me.  I’m not good enough for her am I and so when she found out I do rent, I suppose that was an excuse for her to agree with them.  I kind of get it but then I’ve been doing it for four years behind her back and she’s loved me, so I can’t see it makes that much of a difference.  Anyway fuck the snotty little bitch. I don’t fucking need her.  If she can drop me that easily once then she’ll do it again and fuck that. I don’t need to be treated like a piece of meat that can be picked up and put down when she feels like judging me.  So I’m sat here on Skype.  It’s my birthday and she obviously feels sorry for me and wants to make herself feel less of a prick.  So she’s Skype calling me.  As it goes I’ve fucking had enough.   Like seriously though how much shit can one person be dealt.  So I’ve decided to call it a day at 17.  I’ve got bare Valium that Holly, another girl in the hostel gave me, a couple of boxes of Paracetamol and a bottle of Vodka but she doesn’t know that yet.  I’m going to pick up in a second and she can fucking deal with the result of her actions like I always have to.  Anyway sorry, I’m chatting bare breeze.  Time to go take care of business.  Peace out.  Thorn Schandridge. 

New Tracks: Lady GaGa- Applause


When hearing Lady Gaga's 'Just Dance' back in 2009 I remember thoroughly enjoying this exciting sound, hoping that pop music's modern style of blandness could be transformed into a movement not embarrassing to have on my iPod. However, after failing to be enthralled to the same extent by "Paparazzi" due to its preachy nature, I began to lose interest. By the time the "Fame Monster" was released it seemed like any sense of originality had by Lady Gaga had vanished. 

Sadly I seemed like the only one not tuning in to hear every little update, with Gaga's Twitter follower count going strong at almost 40 million to date. 

And with world domination seemingly her goal - appearing possible with even the infamous 'Meat Dress', styled at the 2010 MTV awards having its own Wikipedia page - Lady Gaga embarks on her third studio album, "Artpop", and "Applause" is the first single to be released from it. 

As in your face as ever? You guessed it. Within slightly over three minutes', Gaga appears in the video with glimpses of resembling Lisa Minnelli; as well as successfully attempting to evoke Heath Ledger's Joker and become a black swan (not literally). Even if you aren't a fan of her work, it's definitely worth a view.

But what are my thoughts on Radio Ga Ga's (I apologise) new song? Titled 'Applause', it may come across as slightly pushy. Other than that I was pleasantly surprised. Though it maintains her image of being nightclub-friendly, lyrically the track is much more original when compared to the cliched 'Born this Way'. 

With her "Little Monsters" counting down the days for every album, and track release, the loyal fans have been well treated. Though not a masterclass, 'Applause' definitely ticks all the boxes. A typically great pop song. 

"ARTPOP" is due to be released on the 9th November via Interscope Records.


Prodigy X Alchemist- Albert Einstein

Artist: Prodigy & Alchemist
Album: Albert Einstein
Record Label: Infamous

Legendary collaborative duo return with an album that generally thrills with brutal '90s vibes

A bit like EL-P and Killer Mike with "Rap Music" last year, there is a clear camaraderie between legendary Mobb Deep figurehead Prodigy and almost equally as celebrated producer Alchemist that means their understanding of each other goes beyond a musical hypothesis. The key difference being, of course, that Prodigy and Alchemist have been working together since the late '90s, and by sticking to their rigid formula of dark- as- hell, braggadocious lyricism and versatile production, "Albert Einstein" is business as usual. And all the better for it.

The duo waste no time in attempting to send shivers up the listener's spine. Album opener proper "IMDKV" revolves around a chillingly dark piano melody and Prodigy sounds as evil and sadistic as he did in Mobb Deep's heyday, venturing into imagery ranging from beating people with nails to baseball bats and slicing eyeballs and worse. "Give 'Em Hell" finds prodigy cocksure as he raps "I'm probably the illest rapper on Earth." On "Stay Dope" he quips "raise a hand to me and you'll lose a fucking arm", and he sounds vitally re- energized over the MF Doom- esque orchestral tinge of "Curb ya Dog."


"Confessions" is far and away the most ultra- violent moment here. Prodigy's lyrics resemble two accounts of murder in the state of revenge, both told in uncompromising, brutally grizzly prose (there's a moment where, after telling us about a time he called a man in front of his young daughter, he raps "She gonna spend most her life in therapy").

It's not all as gripping however. "Bear Meat" has a dramatic piano- based crescendo leading the beat but sees Prodigy rapping little of any significance. "Y.N.T." featuring Domo Genesis isn't worth much either, merely being weed- toking cloud rap that fails to be interesting. "Raw Forever" sees Prodigy revel in indulgences in a way that almost every other rapper has done before.


Overall, "Albert Einstein" plays to the strengths of the duo, those namely being versatile, often brilliant production and Prodigy's unapologetic, relentlessly violent delivery. It's a well worn formula, meaning that it can come off as both refreshing and, occasionally, run dry.

Key tracks: IMDKV, Curb ya Dog, Confessions
For fans of: Ghostface KIllah, Roc Marciano, Czarface

7/10

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Bloc Party- The Nextwave Sessions EP

Artist: Bloc Party
Album: The Nextwave Sessions EP
Record label: Frenchkiss

Bloc Party occasionally show their worth, but ultimately "The Nextwave Sessions" feels superfluous

Maybe it's a kind of psychosis that comes with being one of Indie's most prosperous outlets, but these days Bloc Party's ability to divide opinion almost outweighs the chance of them ever regaining the kind of critically acclaimed hum that clung to their 2005 debut "Silent Alarm." It's a thing that can be countered by the general consensus that last year's "Four" was perhaps their best record since the debut (an opinion admittedly lost on this reviewer), but Okereke & crew seem to spark either manic interest or general indifference.

"The Nextwave Sessions" is a 5- track EP whose purpose seems unclear. We can only assume, realistically, that they did it purely to have fun. Fair enough, and there's certainly no waste of effort or emotion here. "Montreal" has soft, nuanced percussion and an understated, driving bass line that reflect's the band's renowned interest in Dance music, and lyrically it sees Okereke adopt a Morrissey- esque tone in his bleakness as he sings "Tony keeps phoning, he wants his money... You're messing with the big boys now." "French Exit" is the kind of atmosphere heavy, reverb- drenched post- punk that would have fitted well on "Four."


But unfortunately, more often than not Bloc Party find themselves struck down with the "dull" sickness here. You'd be forgiven for thinking opener "Ratchet" was a Dizzee Rascal cover, and though it's upbeat there is little in the way of substance. The faded, throbbing haze of "Obscene" fails to be interesting, as does the quietly preachy closer "Children of the Future."

Apparently Bloc Party are due to take another break after this EP. By the end of it the idea that Bloc Party are simply having fun rings clear, but it just isn't enough. There are glimpses here and there of the exciting band we all know they can be, but the overall feeling of coming away from "The Nextwave Sessions" is "... Meh."

Key Tracks: Montreal, French Exit
For Fans of: The Cure, Foals

5/10

Gorguts- Colored Sands

Artist: Gorguts
Album: Colored Sands
Record Label: Gorguts

Despite occasionally asking a bit too much of the listener, returned Canadian Death metallers Gorguts offer up dazzling levels of skill and composition

When Luc Lamay reformed Quebec Technical Death Metal crew Gorguts in 2009 with an entirely revised line up, it was tantalising to witness any new prowess and skill (such as the band had previously been famed for) take shape. "Colored Sands" is the band's first since both their reformation and 2001's "From Wisdom to Hate", so naturally to prove a point of relevance and unrelenting skill is rightly high on Lamay's agenda.

Most of the time, "Colored Sands" is a blinding showcase of dazzling ability, not only in terms of technical skill, but also in terms of composition. "An Ocean of Wisdom" is a myriad of off- kilter rhythms and schizophrenic time signatures. Airtight brutality is at the fore, but it's interspersed by the meandering, serenely creepy oasis of calm at the song's mid- point. "Enemies of Compassion" is a steel battering ram wielded with brick- to- skull intensity, whilst "Absconders" reaches near 10 minutes in length and is a neatly pieced together fusion of hellish finger work and stripped back interludes.


There are moments where "Colored Sands" doesn't reach the aforementioned highs. "Le Toit Du Monde" is too chaotic and frenzied, leaving no time for anything to be taken in when the grooves are discernible. "Forgotten Arrows", despite being the shortest moment here offers little to tap in to. A slightly more refined approach is sometimes necessary, but "Colored Sands" lacks nothing in terms of character and ability.

Key Tracks: Enemies of Compassion, An Ocean of Wisdom, Ember's Voice
For fans of: Nile, Gojira

7/10

Rejjie Snow- Rejovich EP

Artist: Rejjie Snow
Album: Rejovich EP
Record Label: Kaya Kaya

Mysterious MC still has a lot to prove, but "Rejovich" is certainly enough to maintain interest

From the moment you first put on "Rejovich", the debut EP from elusive mysterio Rejjie Snow, you'll be hard- pressed to work out where exactly he's from. His ultra stripped- back, deep as hell baritone delivery sees him flit simultaneously between American, Australian and Cockney dialects. It's these kind of schizophrenic tendencies that will draw Snow comparisons to the likes of Tyler, the Creator, but there's more substance on "Rejovich" than that would allow credit for.

The hook on opener "Loveleen", with it's "money, bitches, money, greed, pussy, Lord knows" does nothing to give aforementioned substance away, but more depth is endorsed in as the track continues. Lyrically, as is the case throughout this EP, thematically Snow jumps from debauchery to the rap game to a tough upbringing on the streets. "Ussr" finds him demonstrating a wordy intelligence that shows his understanding of the vernacular as he raps "Vietnam veterans slaying rappers with diligence, that's a predicament for your intellect." On "Olga (1984)" he even sounds vulnerable at the end as he confesses "don't blame it on the beers, but cheers, all I wanna do is shed a tear."


If Snow is reluctant to unveil himself via the internet, then "Rejovich" fills in holes that expose personal fears, ambitions and feelings. It's a textured start and, although it leaves him with plenty of worth to prove it's certainly enough to attain interest in what he does in the future.

Key tracks: Loveleen, Ussr, Snow (My Rap Song)
For fans of: Earl Sweatshirt, Tyler, the Creator, Joey Bada$$

7/10

Monday, 19 August 2013

Speedy Ortiz- Major Arcana

Artist: Speedy Ortiz
Album: Major Arcana
Record Label: Carpark

Dripping with college attitude, humour and reflective, sexual romanticism, "Major Arcana" is exactly how '90s revivalism should be

Female power in music is something that has never been in short supply if you look for it. People like Kate Bush, Kim Deal, Joanna Newsom and Patti Smith have all exerted considerably vocal force over the male specimen, making him seem weak when compared to their spectres. Sadie Dupris, front woman of angular Massachusetts college rockers Speedy Ortiz, is another woman who through her way with words and snarling, self- confident attitude is exercising the power of female superiority, whether consciously or not. On "Major Arcana", Speedy Ortiz's debut full- length, it's via a series of stories that revel with bitterness, humour, pent up sexual frustration and reflective high- school romance. All of this is held up by meandering, angular indie rock that wears both the slackerish charm and influence of the likes of Pavement, The Breeders, Pixies and Hole with pride.

"Hitch" is the epitome of the aforementioned angular guitar technology the band deal in, but it's also got a bitingly sassy edge as Dupris sings "Keep below, I want to fuck you... now you know I want to numb you." "Casper (1995)" is a strangely sexy crawl through virtuosity drenched guitar playing, with quips from Dupris like "Kids keep telling each other spectre stories just to get each other horny." "No Below" is a mournful recounting of a high- school relationship that recalls the slower moments on Weezer's "The Blue Album", whilst the excellently vitalised "Plough" finds her lovelorn and bitter in the wake of a manipulative man as she ponders "Why d'you pick a virgin over me?".


Dupris' songwriting may more often than not concern itself with the melancholy end of the lyrical spectrum, but the energy and skill applied to "Major Arcana" means that Speedy Ortiz also sound vital, righteous and elegant. It's a concoction of meticulously detailed story telling and equally as interesting musicianship, and thus recalls a lot of the ingredients that made all the '90s greats so appealing. This is how '90s revivalism should be done.

Key tracks: Hitch, Plough, Casper (1995)
For fans of: Pavement, The Breeders, Pixies

8/10



Billy Woods- Dour Candy

Artist: Billy Woods
Album: Dour Candy
Record Label: Blackwoodz Studioz

"Dour Candy" finds Billy Woods more personal but just as vivid, raw and verbose as always

Mysterious Washington DC rapper Billy Woods announced his arrival to many consciousnesses last year with his raw, dark and enlightening project "History Will Absolve Me," but his under- wraps career spans a time period much more vast. Akin to rappers like Aesop Rock, Woods is a man who will have you reaching for a dictionary of references (such is his verbosity), but he also has a raw- as- hell, confrontational nature that finds his work persistently hard- hitting. Bearing all that in mind, "Dour Candy" is a much more exclusive, personal account of both what seem to be his own experiences and those of people who have had holes torn in their lives due to suburban America's biggest vice; Drugs.

The premise of Woods working with a single producer on this album is a challenge that Blockhead willingly and confidently accepts. The tone of his productions work to exhilarating effect to match the subject matter of each individual song. On "Redacted" he entwines a minimal, quietly dubby beat with an eerie, woozy but strangely pretty keyboard progression, as Woods raps on the hook "name change to protect the guilty, you on the wrong side... the raw side."

On "The Opposer", one of Billy's most pugilistic and in- your- face performances, the production is dark, creepy and hard- hitting. Lyrically Woods paints a picture of the drug dealing world as a vicious, dog- eat- dog existence, full of knives in the dark and deception, summarized by lines like "The people you think you admire? They wouldn't piss if you was on fire."


"One Thousand One Nights" is about trying to keep your drug dealing life secret from your lover, and Blockhead chooses to bookend this with a  slow- burning, smooth but mournful trumpet- based sample. "Tinseltown" sounds suitably reflective with distantly soaring '80s guitar samples layered on top of chiming synth loops. Woods sounds almost confessional, struggling to come to terms with the life he leads and finds him paranoid; "They said it was easy money, but I just can't trust it... She said I love you honey but I just can't trust it."

The most prolific moment here though comes on "Central Park," which is actually produced by DJ Addikt, but it's Woods' wordplay that is most encapsulating. "Pop quiz... What's the difference between being crazy high and a panic attack? Trick question," before going on to say "Blame the family, blame myself or blame the system."


Billy Woods is as self- depreciating, honest and realistic as ever on "Dour Candy." It's less consciously righteous than "History Will Absolve Me", but it's deliberately depraved and just as vivid and distinctly troubling. It's the kind of cold narrative that brings dark truths to light that Woods' prophetic qualities allow him to do so well.

Key Tracks: Central Park, The Opposer, Tinseltown
For fans of: Aesop Rock, EL-P

8/10

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

New Tracks: Big Sean- Control (Ft. Kendrick Lamar & Jay Electronica)


OK so, twitter went pretty nuts when Big Sean's new track "Control" dropped last night, specifically for Kendrick Lamar's fire- branded, grizzly verse. The track spans 7 and a half minutes and after an awkward, typically jarring verse from Big Sean, it's no surprise that a rapper like Kendrick stirred up such a fuss with his technical prowess. By comparison, it's a bit like Jesus changing water into wine whilst standing next to a baker packing some bread into a plastic bag. It also features the long absent Jay Electronica, whose verse is good but in the eyes of most has paled in comparison. 

It's not a terrible track. The beat has a shuddering keyboard synth and an echoing vocal sample, but it's all faded out to ensure that the protagonists' verses are what really captures the listener's attention. The thing about this track is people are behaving as though Kendrick's verse is about to change the face of rap music. Sure, in terms of technical skill, wordplay and Machiavelli referneces it's a hell of a verse. 

However the part that's got most people buzzing is the lengthy list of MCs Lamar calls out as worse than him on this track. "All the best MCs, Kendrick, Jigga and Nas, Em and Andre 3000, the rest of y'all? All you new niggas is new niggas, don't get involved", and then a couple of bars later: 


Now, if we're being honest, by Hip Hop standards this is absolutely tame. If Kendrick wasn't perhaps the most talked about young MC on the planet right now the reaction this caused on twitter would never have been received on the same scale. For people to suggest that this is some kind of revolutionary verse seems quite strange to me. More importantly than that though, the verse has seen a lot of people demanding or expecting responses from the listed rappers. It smacks a little bit of hyper inflation and a superior, unnecessary proportion.

Here's the original track:


Nevertheless, it's already stirred rapper B.O.B. enough to record this response titled "How 2 Rap (Kendrick Response), in which he even goes as far to gimmick Kendrick's flow on "Swimming Pools."


Here's a video made by the boys over at Dead End Hip Hop presenting their views about the track:




R.A. The Rugged Man- Legends Never Die

Artist: R.A. The Rugged Man
Album: Legends Never Die
Record Label: Nature Sounds

The return of the obscure Long Island MC is a mighty odyssey 

It's been 9 years since Long Island MC R.A. The Rugged Man released a full- length album proper, and even if the casual listener may be unaware to his existence, for those vigilant in the underground way of Hip Hop then "Legends Never Die" is somewhat of an event. It's certainly an event for Rugged Man too; after years of features with a plethora of celebrated below- the- radar stalwarts and no chance to properly show his worth, the 18 song length of "Legends Never Die" (usually a length reserved for Mixtape releases) is justified.

Rugged Man clearly feels the need to stake a sort of claim right from the off on "Legends Never Die", but that's by no means the entire premise of this album. His brutal, unrelenting and in- your- face flow covers many spectrums of prose, from heaving braggadocia, obnoxious black humour to deep and relevant social/ political critique. If it's not told in the most flowery of deliveries then that's entirely the point; "Legends Never Die" is blunt, and very self- consciously so. "I'm about to give you a level of skill you won't hear in the mainstream" he spits on the intro "Still Diggin Wit Buck", and in a way, that's a cathartic modus operandi for the whole piece.

Rugged Man's silly, deliberately over the top self- indulgence appears first on tracks like "The People's Champ", which sees him stating "My flow is Michael Angelo, The Sistine Chapel, you ain't even finger painting." He's at it with more approachable style on the fantastically old- school bass- charged shuffle of "The Definition of a Rap Flow", during which he barely stops to take a breath.

Then there's the political spectrum he tackles. He delves into politics frequently and often when you might not be expecting it, like on the brick- to- skull smash of "Holla- Loo- Yah". The album's highlight however is "Learn truth", which finds both him and collaborator Talib Kweli spitting righteous, worldly conscious fire. "My flow is fuckin honest, you said you wanted to hear but you lied 'cause all you wanted was for me to lift up your spirits" says Kweli in the opening verse. Rugged Man meanwhile spans almost the entirety of evil history, before bringing it back to modern prevalence in stark fashion with the line "The government is poisoning the minds and lives of the babies that are born poor."


He launches a vicious right- hook at all media corporations on "Media Midgets", which entails perhaps the most soulful production on the album, providing a laid back platform for lines like "We're living in a nation living in intimidation due to primitive media manipulation" to strike home hard.

There's also the distinctly personal, like "Legends Never Die (Daddy's Halo)", an incredibly moving ode to his deceased father over an acoustic variation on the beat behind Beyonce's "Halo." Closer "Still Get Through The Day" is even inspiring, as Rugged Man delves deep into personal tragedy via vivid imagery to attain a kind of "Life goes on, everything will be ok" kind of mentality on the other side. It's brilliantly motivational.

Things are a little sillier on the brutally self- deprecating "Shoot Me in the Head." "I'm hated I got liberals wishing for the Death penalty and Conservatives wishing my mom had aborted her pregnancy," before going on to ponder "kids wanna be me, why you wanna copy this loser." In the second verse he gets more political as he shoots "you think they was looking for Bin Ladin? that's a croc, they was looking for him like they was looking for the killers of Biggie and Pac," all interspersed with a deliberately absurd hook.


"I've had a long career, but really this album is just the beginning, I got plenty more in store for you", he promises on "Shuko Outro." Whilst it seemingly took 9 years for Rugged Man to assemble this kind of vernacular brilliance, there's no reason why he couldn't do it sooner next time. He's the kind of MC who could drum up witty and facetious verses without much thought, and it's a style that he's sure to explore more. In the meantime, "Legends Never Die" is a fine odyssey through the mindset of an MC who deserves to be treasured.

Key Tracks: Learn Truth (ft. Talib Kweli), Legends Never Die (Daddy's Halo), Still get Through the Day
For fans of: Celph Titled, Jedi Mind Tricks

8/10

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Vaccines- Melody Calling EP

Artist: The Vaccines
Album: Melody Calling EP
Record Label: Sony

The Vaccines approach summery pop vibes via '60s psychedelia and '90s American Indie with lush results

If The Vaccines promised increased maturity on their second album, last year's "Coming of Age", then "Melody Calling" sees them, across the minuscule space of three original tracks, make good on that promise. They're still leaps and bounds from doing anything truly original. But on this EP it sounds like they've been doing a lot more listening to The Lemonheads, Girls and The Dandy Warhols than they have The Kaiser Chiefs, and all the better for it; their transition is mostly gorgeous.

The title track kicks things off with a robust drum beat surrounded by a sparkling, reverb- tinted lead guitar melody, which is joined by an atmospheric, synthetic backdrop in the rising chorus. "Do You Want A Man?" can proudly be considered one of the finest songs they've ever written. There's jagged interplay between stabs of distorted guitars, an appropriately rumbling bass line and a doo- wop influenced shuffle, not to mention the spacious odes to '60s psychedelia in the chorus. "Everybody's Gonna Let You Down" is a pessimistic trawl through Nirvana- esque acoustic chords and a slinky, clear- cut lead guitar riff. A beautiful synth hum joins the foray in the chorus as Justin Young sings "With no hesitation I'll run all night, it's a lonely life."


The Vaccines still hold simplistic pop song writing dear to their hearts. But if "Melody Calling" proves anything about them, it's that they've become one of those bands with a truly great ear for incorporating both maturity and simplicity into a 3 minute song, and with a fair dose of versatility, as "Do You Want a Man?" stands to prove. Hopefully they can transfer this grown up immediacy to a full- length.

Key Tracks: Do You Want A Man?, Everybody's Gonna Let You Down
For Fans Of: The Lemonheads, Real Estate

8/10

New Tracks: Manic Street Preachers, The Weeknd, Cerebral Ballzy and A$AP Ferg


The Manic Street Preachers have released the second song to drop from their upcoming album "Rewind The Film." It follows on from the release of the title track from the album (which features Richard Hawley) as the first single, and it's called "Show Me The Wonder." The song is an exceptionally upbeat, bombastic brass- lead affair, with punchy horns leading the charge with vigour and summery dramatism, whilst high brow, slightly twangy acoustic chords make up the rest of the melody. Lyrically it sees Nicky Wire on familiar territory, as James Dean Bradfield coos in his ever strong and soulful delivery "Is heaven a place where nothing ever happens? Is it to much to ask to disbelieve everything?", and then in the chorus "I've seen the birthplace of our universe." It's a song that truly sees the band burst back into life.

"Rewind The Film" is due to be released on the 16th September via Sony.



Depraved Canadian R'n'B visionary Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, has returned with a brand new track that goes by the name of "Love in the Sky." At just under two minutes long it's a surprisingly short venture, but it contains all the hazy beauty, mysterious vibes and debauched story telling of his best work. Tesfaye's gorgeous falsetto swoons over a fractured beat of lo- fi, funky guitar picking and cloudy, cavernous synths. You know he's in fine lyrical fettle when he conjures pieces of prose like this:

""And I'm flying all over the world and I'm killin' these shows/ but I'm always getting high 'cause my confidence is low/ And I'm always in a rush, ain't got no time to fuck slow/ and even if I did it's not something I know/ But I'm sure I'd make you cum 2 or 3 times in a row/ and I'm sure you would've left with that pussy in control."

The track comes from Tesfaye's upcoming full- length "Kiss Land", which he says is "Like a Horror movie." Business as usual, then. Watch this space.



Raucous young DC noise- punks Cerebral Ballzy have released a new single called "Another Day." It's a typically raw, fuzzy and violent affair, but this time its catchy, punchy three chord progressions and ethereal, spacious vocals see it attain a rather more controlled and well managed piece of fury. It's a song that sees the band transcend further into straight up noise- rock territory than Hardcore, especially when considering the sludgy, hefty interlude that worms it's way in a minute before the end.

I was a big fan of the band's 2011 debut but if "Another Day" is anything to go by then new material from Cerebral Ballzy will be more developed, thought out but just as urgent and captivating. I can't wait to see what they do next.



A$AP Ferg, perhaps the second most renowned member of the A$AP crew, has dropped a new track called "Hood Pope", and against all expectations I actually quite like it. Over a stoned, mellow trap beat the song sees Ferg assume a sort of Nate Dogg/ a more soulful Old Dirty Bastard type intonation as he half raps, half sings his verses. Lyrically he does indulge in the kind of narcissistic "Swag rap" that his counterpart A$AP Rocky is so famed for, but he incorporates a strangely meaningful kind of story telling here, as he raps "you talkin about riding with them, fighting with them, they ain't your friends", before going on to talk about how he hopes his son doesn't end up living a rough life on the streets.


Fuck Buttons- Slow Focus

Artist: Fuck Buttons
Album: Slow Focus
Record Label: ATP Recordings

UK Electro- Noise duo opt for a darker, and unfortunately less mesmerizing style on album No.3

Having become one of UK Electronica's most observed acts since their manic 2008 debut "Street Horrsing", Fuck Buttons' long awaited return after a 3 year absence will have most fans wanting vindication for the prolonged lateness. "Slow Focus", the band's 3rd full- length, is definitely one that plays to the band's strengths sonically. Long, languorous 10 minute epics like the opener "Brainfreeze" are exactly the kind of celestial, layered premise we've come to expect. But instead of alluding to the glorious, fuzzy highs of 2010's "Tarot Sport", there's a much darker, unnerving current worming its way between the seams of "Slow Focus." Unfortunately, it will leave many fans wanting.

"The Red Wing" announces its arrival with a  pounding Boom- Bap beat beat and has has gritty, droning synths supported by rhythmically progressive tendencies and is joined later by glacial and increasingly dramatic flavours. "Sentients" has a crawling, pulsating beat surrounded by bleepy scree before an alienating melody that sounds like a robot firing up into destructive life.


However, the matter of the fact remains that Fuck Buttons fail to attain any real kind of character most of the time on "Slow Focus." The circulations of "Year of the Dog" feel rather superfluous, and for all its immersive efforts "Stalker" fails to be interesting. Despite a handful of kaleidoscopic cuts, the overwhelming feeling coming upon leaving "Slow Focus" is that it should have given more.

Key Tracks: Brainfreeze, The Red Wing, Sentients
For fans of: Boards of Canada, Godspeed You! Black Emperor

6/10

Friday, 9 August 2013

New Tracks: Kings of Leon- Wait For Me


Kings of Leon have released the first single to drop from their upcoming 6th studio full- length "Mechanical Bull", and it's entitled "Wait For Me." The song largely reflects the sound of later era- Kings records. It's a stand up but subtle anthem, comprising of meandering, reverb- soaked guitar lines and a chorus that keeps it's cool but is likely to unashamedly lodge itself in your brain.

The song is distinctly pretty and catchy, but there's nothing particularly edgy or interesting about it. Essentially, it's a slightly more pleasant take on the "radio rock by numbers" that Kings Of Leon have been dabbling in since 2008's "Only By The Night." All that being said, it's certainly a lot more enjoyable than most of what was on 2010's resignedly poor "Come Around Sundown."

"Mechanical Bull" is due to be released on 23rd September via RCA Records.


The Haxan Cloak- Excavation

Artist: The Haxan Cloak
Album: Excavation
Record Label: Tri Angle Records

Bobby Krlic's more electronic trajectory on "Excavation" sees a new sonic side to his terrifyingly dark soundscapes

As far as the concept of the one man project ethos goes, Bobby Krlic, aka The Haxan Cloak, is an example of a man who is doing it right. Perhaps most crucially to this ethos, he makes music primarily for himself, therefore making room for the premise that it's an added bonus if anybody else likes it. As we saw on his self- titled debut in 2011, it's an approach that allows him to arrange and compose songs to exactly how he thinks they should fit, a necessary nuance of the private narcissism that comes with working alone.

"Excavation", his second full- length, sees him abide by the same rules, but with a much more electronic formula at hand. If that sounds like The Haxan Cloak's music has lost the Midas- like presence of his genre- hopping debut then fear not; "Excavation" is still varying degrees of "bloody terrifying." "Excavation Pt. 1" sounds like being chased around an abandoned construction site at 3 in the morning by a serial killer with no clear exit. It's spacious but with plenty of progressive percussive elements to ensure it doesn't lose focus. "Excavation Pt. 2" is even more nightmarish with its ear- drum puncturing bass and screeching, robotic scree before becoming an eerily twinkling overture. "Mara" is comprised of pounding stabs of drums behind torturous violin interjections and Horror- Movie- esque drones.


If there's one track here that seems to encompass all of Krlic's musical ambition (and sees it executed near- perfectly) it's "The Mirror Reflecting Pt. 2". It has enormous presence right from the dark, guttural keys and Nintendo- esque synths at the beginning to the creepily mournful violins in the mid- section to the layers of thick but faded out and hazy rave- esque synths that intertwine at the end. It's a majestic listening experience. 

"Dieu" is perhaps the most dance- orientated moment here, relying largely on ambidextrous drum samples, minimal synths and distant, alienating vocal yelps to pursue its momentum. "The Drop" begins with beautiful layers of reflective keys before descending into dark acoustics and then even further into unnerving ritualistic, tribal territory. 



It's true that as a whole piece, "Excavation" may not always have the overbearing musicianship or unique presence of "The Haxan Cloak." However it marries the dark and beautiful rather successfully throughout, and in still considerably incomparable fettle. It'll give you that "nails on a blackboard feeling", but in a way that is intensely inviting, as well as quiveringly uncomfortable. 

Key Tracks: The Mirror Reflecting Pt. 2, Dieu, The Drop
For fans of: Andy Stott, Actress, Demdike Stare

7/10